Born in Arbeadie village, Aberdeenshire, on 5th August 1843, James Scott Skinner was the youngest of six children. His father, William Skinner, was a dance teacher who had taught himself fiddle after a shotgun accident left him with a badly damaged hand. The young James was taught violin and cello by his brother, and, by the age of eight, he was playing the cello regularly at local dances. In 1855, aged eleven, James signed up for a six-year apprenticeship with ‘Dr Mark’s Little Men’, a boys’ musical touring group based in Manchester, which was to prove to be his musical making.
Skinner grew up to be one of the most prolific composers of Scottish fiddle pieces in the 19th century. He was also one of the very first Scottish artists to be recorded – he made his first recordings in 1899. The Cradle Song was Skinner’s most famous slow air and was inspired by the scene of a woman caring for a sick child.
The piece was originally arranged to feature the euphonium, but the soloist part at each end of the piece could be played by any Bb soloist – particularly the flugelhorn or cornet. The intention at “E” is that the soloist and one other play at the octave for two bars, then the soloist plays alone to the end.
The piece is dedicated to Ruth and Mark’s beautiful daughter Sophie, who features, along with Mark’s BBb bass, on the cover of this score.